In an interview for the ABC News Shuffle podcast today, former presidential candidate and Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo. -- an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and a groomsman in the 1981 wedding of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Cindy Helmsley -- did not hold back on his views of McCain's VP pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"I think it was irresponsible," Hart said. "There are minimum standards; you have to qualify to govern this country. That means understanding the federal system and the federal budget, at the very least; it means being prepared to be head of state and chief diplomat of this country under our Constitution, and it means being prepared to be commander in chief of the military forces. This lady does not qualify on any of the three levels."
Listen to the podcast HERE or on iTunes.
"If Sen. McCain were 60 or 62 years old, it would be one thing," Hart said. "He’s not, and age is an issue, and his health and or ability is an issue. This is a woman who is not qualified to lead this country.
"I don’t care what anyone says about 'hockey mom,' or any of the rest of it," Hart continued. "There are minimum standards, and what the Republican Party is doing this week is lowering that standard even more, and there is a point beyond which people are not qualified to run this country."
That said, Hart appreciates the pick in political terms.
"In one fell swoop, Sen. McCain managed to placate the religious right and/or the cultural conservatives, whatever they call themselves, on the one hand, and poke a finger in his own party’s eye in the other," he said. "I thought it was quite a clever move."
Hart got to know then-Capt. McCain when he was Navy liaison to the Senate in the late 70s. "And out of that came a friendship which led to the invitation to join the wedding party," he said. "What I was rather impressed by was the degree to which he had retained his sanity and a pretty good degree of humor under those circumstances,” Hart said, referring to McCain’s experience as a P.O.W. “I wasn’t sure, trying to put myself in the same situation, that I could have done as well," he added.
McCain, Hart noted, "went through a great deal, and I admire and respect him for it. I admire him less for the accommodations he’s made to certain extreme elements of his own party to get the nomination ... I think it’s clear to everyone that he’s not the same independent maverick that he was before."
Hart, who faced scrutiny of his personal life as a presidential candidate in 1988, said he did not see any similarities in his issues with the media, and the McCain campaign's complaints about the media intruding in the life of Palin's unmarried, pregnant 17-year-old daughter.
"Without getting into the details," he said, "I think it’s a long stretch from writing stories about a family which the candidate, herself, is featuring, and having reporters hiding in bushes and peering in a candidate’s house. There are degrees of intrusiveness and extremes have been reached in that regard." Hart added, "If a candidate chooses to make their family the base of their campaign, that’s one thing, but I think, otherwise, it’s time for all public officials just to say it’s none of your business."
You can listen to much more from Hart at the ABC News Shuffle podcast HERE or on iTunes. The podcast was produced by Julia Hoppock and Natalie Gewargis.